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The weight of General Synod

Monique1-238x300Seven days ago, I sat down at our family dinner table and told my children about what I was going to be doing while I would be away from home and why it was important for me to participate in the work of the General Synod of the church. I told them as much as I could about what I, as a General Synod first-timer, was able. I mentioned to them that we would be voting on allowing gay people to marry in the church. My 15-year old looked at me and said, “You are kidding, right?” I replied, “No, I’m not, this will be the biggest topic.” To which she replied, “Mom, you people in the church need to move on. Excluding gay people from marriage is ridiculous.” And so I went to General Synod with a strong viewpoint on the necessity for the church to be as inclusive as I feel Jesus would want it to be—a viewpoint that I had at the very least been able to successfully teach the teenagers that sit around my dinner table.

I participated in General Synod 2016 and by now most of you have probably read about the roller coaster ride that it was. Indeed, I am thankful and joy-filled for the final outcome on the Marriage Canon. However, I did not leave General Synod with elation, but rather with a profound recognition of the complexities of our church and the many challenges that sit ahead of us, not simply those of the Marriage Canon—challenges of deep diversity that may never come to an end, but rather may simply be part of the ongoing ethos of Anglicanism.

Together the delegates witnessed to others the burden of our tradition’s complexity, a burden that sometimes can be carried with joy and make us stronger, and at other times can weigh so heavily upon us that we drop to our knees. It was a weight that seemed to rest upon each and every delegate, regardless of our positions.

Moment after moment each of us recognized the deep diversity that sits in our church, the deep hurt that can emerge when humans gather together and allow their anger and frustration to take over at the expense of others, the capacity some of us have to avoid those who think differently than we do, and the unbridled way in which other individuals can be drawn to each other in heartfelt embrace even across the chasm of differing views.

Moment after moment we recognized the weight of trying to conduct matters of importance within the imperfect human systems of governance, structure, consultation, conversation, technology, and even language. A clicker became a scapegoat, taking the blame for something we forgot: that in all spaces as heavy as these, we must leave room for both correctness and for error.

Emotions, both positive and negative, fell heavily upon us—perhaps most profoundly when over two hundred delegates, filled with a plethora of different feelings, were held together by a rolling storm of silence that took control. It was a storm that could only be outdone the next day, when silence once again took over and each in the room was obliged to experience the emotions that those opposite had felt a mere twenty hours earlier.

General Synod 2016 will forever impact the journey of many. It may never be forgotten, especially by those who sat for hour upon hour at any of the tables in that plenary room. It was difficult and gut-wrenching. It was blessed and filled with joy. It was challenging and it was transformative. It was filled with profound sadness along with profound celebration. It had moments that were frivolously light and moments that were heavy.

Now, as it has come to an end, its weight will enter communities across the country who will carry the joy and the challenge of its burden.

When I returned, one of the first things my son said to me was, “Did we win, Mom? Can everyone get married?”

“Yes, I guess we did. It didn’t quite feel like a win, though,” I replied. “Lots of people felt hurt at different times in different ways. Lots of stuff happened and it was really heavy and hard for everyone there”.

“That’s okay, Mom, don’t worry,” he said. “It’s a good thing and it will all work out like it is supposed to.”

“Yes,” I replied. “You are probably right. I sure hope it does.”

The Rev. Monique Stone

About The Rev. Monique Stone

I am blessed to be the Incumbent at the Parish of Huntley in Carp, Ontario (part of the Diocese of Ottawa) and have lots of fun contributing to the leadership of our rural parish. Whether I am sitting at the local coffee shop or flipping burgers at the annual Fair I consider authentic engagement with the broader community integral to my ministry. I personally feel that this period of church history with all its changes, declines, doubts and concerns is exciting, inspiring and best approached with a sense of hope and a sense of humour.
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11 Responses to The weight of General Synod

  1. thank you for that heartfelt reflection as we will all be continuing to unpack our experience

  2. A scripture that seems to reflect the synod “Transgressing and denying the LORD, And turning away from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands far away; For truth has stumbled in the street, And uprightness cannot enter. Yes, truth is lacking;” We serve a God that does not change neither does His truth.

  3. Thank you for your response to the difficult issue that was part of synod. I think your children are right. %0 years from now people will say” what was that all about?” I believe that when people are kind and accepting of other Jesus smiles and say” you did it my way. God bless you in your new parish and if you know him say hello to Rev Aaron Thorpe.

  4. Thanks for sharing..my adult daughter said the same thing in 2007 so we still discriminate and break the law that most Canadians have to follow.

  5. You made reference to the ethos of Anglicanism, and I wondered if you might be willing to expand a bit on what you consider that to be.

    • Hi Matthew, thanks for the question. To me part of the ethos is this capacity (or attempted capacity) to hold in tension diverse views and opinions (even the diversity of liturgy, etc). In my opinion this is one of the best attributes of Anglicanism but I have learned that is may also be one of the most challenging. What do you think? Would you agree with my use of the term?

      • Hi Monique, thank you for the reply. I haven’t heard that really presented as Anglican ethos in the sense of something inherent to Anglicanism, though I’ve certainly heard it before in connection to the Anglican Church of Canada as a description of how many Canadian Anglicans believe the Church does or should operate.

        When I think of the Anglican ethos, I think chiefly of the primacy of Scripture, the faith of the early church, articulated in the creeds and councils of the Church, the sacraments and the three-fold order of ministry. Those would be reocgnizable principles from the time of the English Reformation (well, and really before) up until today in any Anglican jurisdiction.

        In any event, I would always shy away from any definition of Anglicanism which might–whether intended or not–speak to a parochial view of Anglicanism that silences Anglican voices from outside of our own province. Particularly in light of the neo-colonial exceptionalism that was on display at General Synod, and during the recent ACC meeting in Lusaka.

  6. Thanks Monique. Beautifully summarized

  7. This is another problem with the Anglican Church of Canada. As Monique’s 15 year old said, “You church people need to move on.” In the early 1980s the Book of Alternative Services was introduced as a temporary and here we are some 15 years and people still not accepting it as official.
    The Anglican Church should be proudly and joyfully telling the world that we are all inclusive in the ordination of women as priests, and in the case of the Diocese of Montreal, the election of MARY Irwin-Gibson as Bishop. At our Diocesan Synod in 2015, at a workshop on French Ministry, a priest pointed out that following the election, a French language newspaper admonished the Catholic for not following our decision.
    When we open our doors to those who wish to worship with us, we can say welcome to all regardless of your race, language and sexual orientation. Several years ago during a conversation, one women asked another why she wasn’t going to church, and was it because she did not believe in God. The other woman’s reply was “I believe in God, it just the Christians that I have a problem with.”
    To use the goal of DNC in the US, let us build bridges, not walls.

  8. Short reply ,God don’t live by our rule but we live by his rules.

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